With 114 declared runners, Navan's Troytown card lacks nothing in competitiveness and the respective chase and hurdle debuts of Vautour and Milsean add real class to the fixture. But can Tony Keenan hunt out some of the value in Ireland today?
"The form of Hazariban's Naas second last March could not have worked out any better - two more winners emerged from it last weekend - and he comes in her in good form having improved a stone on the flat since the spring."
The market has moved overnight in favour of Free Expression and that's no surprise; he's all upside and should improve for this trip. That said, prices around 2.6313/8 look short as he won an ordinary maiden hurdle last time and the success was workmanlike. I much prefer the claims of Martello Tower who should be favourite for this.
A win machine, his only defeat in five rules starts came when making his hurdling debut in a listed race off an eleven-month break when he still ran to 130. He was a lot better than the result when scraping home in a Cork Grade 3 last time as he was forced to race very early by a rival that was ultimately well beaten yet he still had enough to hold off the closers. The drop in trip is no issue and he has already beaten both Kauto Grand Mogol and Rock the World in bumpers giving weight away.
Vautour hasn't exactly been found a soft beginners' chase here but he should win. The place market in behind him is interesting. Clarcam looks a horse better suited by faster ground while Minella Foru's chase form looks ordinary; the winner of the race he was third in was well beaten before unseating in a Grade 2 last weekend. Western Boy lacks a run and may not take to chasing; his trainer describes him as light-framed and he is flat-bred, by Antonius Pius who is 3/44 over fences.
That leaves Viconte Du Noyer, currently the fifth choice of the market. He was little better than a disaster with Willie Mullins last season but his first start for Henry De Bromhead, whose horses often improve for fences, was excellent. Totally unfancied in the betting, he ran third in one of the hottest maiden chases of the season over this course-and-distance, good horses in front and behind, and if he runs to that level, even without improvement, he should make the frame.
This year's Troytown is heavy on numbers but possibly short on well-handicapped ones. Owega Star could be on a fair mark judged by some of his novice runs but his price has already contracted and he ran poorly last time while Balbriggan has the form to go well if he handles the ground but his priced too has shortened.
Groody Hill, the 2011 winner of the race, could be the one to be with at the prices. Ordinarily, a past winner from three years ago would be too old to come back to win again, but Groody Hill is just eight and his mark of 127 looks fair; he won off 124 in 2011 before finishing a close third in the Paddy Power off 132. His trainer has been optimistic in the run-up to the race and he shaped very well in winning over hurdles at Fairyhouse earlier in the month. He looks the most likely JP McManus plunge horse in the race though, as Tony McCoy told us on AtTheRaces on Friday night, JP hardly bets!
Of those at bigger prices, He'llberemembered is a bet to place. He comes here in good heart and has an excellent record at the track and is one of those older horses that repeatedly runs his race in top handicaps but is underrated by the market. Over hurdles and fences, the 11yo has run in 15 graded handicaps, winning three and placing in seven more. There is a slight stamina concern but that doubt is in the price; he could be one to back at BSP as he rarely attracts support.
Unlike the Troytown, this Grade C handicap hurdle could be full of well-handicapped sorts with the likes of Gallant Oscar, Give Me A Break and Realt Mor all possibly having pounds in hand. Hazariban is my idea of the value however and while there's a concern about him getting the trip, it's about the only one.
The form of his Naas second last March could not have worked out any better - two more winners emerged from it last weekend - and he comes in her in good form having improved a stone on the flat since the spring. He loves the course (form figures at Navan are:61911) and hails from the sort of yard whose horses are often underrated in the betting. He should be single figures for this race.
1pt Back Martello Tower @ 3.55/2 or bigger in the 12:55 at Navan
1pt Back Viconte Du Noyer to place @ 3.55/2 or bigger in the 13:55 at Navan
1pt Back Groody Hill @ 14.013/1 or bigger in the 14:25 at Navan
1pt Back He'llberemembered to place @ 6.05/1 or bigger in the 14:25 at Navan
1pt Back Hazariban @ 13.012/1 or bigger in the 14:55 at Navan